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For Gov. James Ibori to appeal UK conviction on grounds that ‘British police were bribed’

James
Ibori, a former governor of Delta State, jailed in Britain for
corruption, is very likely to appeal against his conviction on the
grounds that British police and lawyers involved in his case were
themselves corrupt, a London court heard on Friday.

Ibori,
who as governor of oil-producing Delta State from 1999 to 2007 became
one of Nigeria’s richest and most powerful men, is serving a 13-year
sentence after pleading guilty in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and
money-laundering.

While in office, Ibori acquired
luxury properties in Britain, the United States, South Africa and
Nigeria. He is the most senior Nigerian politician to have been held to
account for the corruption that has blighted Africa’s most populous
nation.

His jailing in Britain, where he had laundered
millions of pounds and sent his children to an expensive private school,
was hailed as a high point in the international fight against graft and
an important signal to other corrupt politicians.

But
his lawyer Ivan Krolick told Southwark Crown Court on Friday that Ibori
was “95 percent certain” to challenge his conviction in the Court of
Appeal based on documents that have only recently been disclosed to the
defence by the prosecution.

At the same hearing,
Stephen Kamlish, a lawyer for Ibori associate and convicted money
launderer Bhadresh Gohil, said the documents showed there had been
widespread police corruption followed by a cover-up that was still going
on now.

The main allegation is that a police officer
involved in the Ibori probe took payments for information in 2007 from a
firm of private detectives working on Ibori’s behalf. At the time,
Ibori had not been arrested and was still in Nigeria, but knew that
British police were investigating his finances.

Kamlish
said prosecution lawyers had known there was evidence of police
corruption but had failed to disclose it to defence lawyers. Krolick
told Reuters on the sidelines of Friday’s court hearing that Ibori did
not know about the payments at the time.

Prosecution says convictions are valid

The
police have said that the allegation was thoroughly investigated and
that no one was arrested or charged, and no misconduct identified. The
officer against whom the allegations have been made is still in active
service.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), after a
lengthy internal investigation, said in September it was confident that
the convictions of Ibori and Gohil remained valid.

The
CPS has said it found “material to support the assertion that a police
officer received payment in return for information”. It did not use the
word “evidence”, suggesting it did not consider the material in question
amounted to proof.

But the CPS conceded in September
that the material should have been disclosed to the defence, and handed
over thousands of documents to defence lawyers. Those were the documents
that Kamlish and Krolick were referring to in court on Friday.

Gohil
has already filed an appeal against his conviction. Krolick said Ibori
was likely to do so once his legal team had finished going through all
the newly disclosed documents.

As is normal under
British procedures, Ibori is due to be released in December after
serving half his sentence, taking into account pre-trial detention.
Gohil, a British former lawyer, has already been released after serving
half of a 10-year term for his role in laundering Ibori’s millions.

One
of Ibori’s lawyers told Reuters it was not clear whether he would be
able to return to Nigeria immediately, because legal proceedings
concerning the confiscation of assets of his, worth tens of millions of
dollars, were unresolved.

They were supposed to have
been resolved years ago, but have ground to a halt due to the
allegations of police corruption and the prospect of Ibori taking his
case to the Court of Appeal.

Reuters

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